WWE hit with another head injury lawsuit

April 10, 2015

Another head injury lawsuit has been filed against the WWE by former wrestlers claiming that the company did not disclose information regarding traumatic brain injuries as well as its “egregious mistreatment of its wrestlers.”  The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  It is the fourth lawsuit within a year filed by former WWE wrestlers.

Previously, William Albert Haynes II ( Billy Jack Haynes) filed a lawsuit in Oregon, Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia and the widow of Nelson Lee Frazier filed a lawsuit in Tennessee.

The lawsuit filed Thursday involves Russ McCullough, Ryan Sakoda and Matthew R. Wiese.  All three wrestlers reside in Southern California according to the Class Action Complaint.

There are seven causes of action in the Complaint including Fraudulent Concealment and Failure to Disclose or Warn and Negligence.  The lawsuit also includes a claim of the violation of the California Unfair Competition Law.  Essentially it’s a state action related to the WWE’s alleged misrepresentation/concealment of information related to “head impacts and related injuries” which were associated with performing at WWE events.

This lawsuit was filed by San Francisco-based Class Action law firm of Audet & Partners.  It requests that the lawsuit be considered for class action status.

A copy of the lawsuit is here via @indeedwrestling.

Payout Perspective:

MMA Payout will keep you posted as the class action lawsuits against the WWE mount.  Although we have yet to read the full 47 page Complaint, it appears to mirror the other lawsuits (specifically the Haynes lawsuit including pics embedded in the pleading) filed with respect to the WWE’s alleged failure to warn and/or disclose information about head injuries to its contracted performers.  It appears that this pattern of class action lawsuits may be similar to what the NFL and NHL have seen in recent years.

Court opinion in Bellator-Rampage lawsuit made available

April 9, 2015

A copy of the court opinion by Judge Karen Suter which granted Bellator MMA’s injunction in its lawsuit against Rampage Jackson was made public.

After oral argument on April 2nd, the Court issued its opinion on April 7th.  MMA Fighting provides a copy of the lawsuit here.

The court made it abundantly clear that it was not deciding the merits of the case and specifically that it was not deciding whether the contract between Bellator and Rampage was breached.  However, it made clear that Bellator had proved its case

Although the Court referred to several cases involving boxers that sign promotional agreements and then seek additional help from other promoters, the Court distinguished this case based on the exclusivity of Bellator’s agreement with Rampage.  It sided with Bellator in its argument that it was likely that Rampage breached its contract despite the arguments raised.

As previously stated, the Court found “clear and convincing” of the following on behalf of Bellator.  The four factors in determining a preliminary injunction are as follows:

  1. A substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  2. There is a substantial threat of irreparable damage or injury if the injunction is not granted;
  3. The “balance of harms” (threatened injury) weighs in favor of the party seeking the preliminary injunction;
  4. Granting an injunction would serve the public interest.

Some interesting points from the 25 page ruling.

  • The Court emphasized the exclusivity of the contract between Bellator and Jackson. It also stressed the fame and notoriety of Jackson as evidence that Bellator would suffer injury if Jackson were allowed to participate at UFC 186.
  • The Court did not buy the argument that Bellator breached its contract since it did not provide Rampage or his management with PPV summary report. The Court indicated Bellator had substantially complied with the information and that not providing the PPV summary was not a material breach of the contract.
  • Rampage’s claim that his fights were not adequately promoted by Bellator and the need to obtain the PPV summary was necessary fell flat. The Court ruled that there was no marketing provision setting a certain amount of money that was required to promote his fights.  Even without producing the summary report for PPV, there would be no breach since the actual compensation Rampage received was not in dispute.  Furthermore, the Court opined that Rampage offered no rationale for why Bellator would not want to market and promote one of the company’s top stars.
  • The Court sided with Bellator with its argument that if Rampage were allowed to fight at UFC 186, it would harm Bellator more than just monetarily, but from a reputation and brand standpoint. Bellator argued that the “MMA community” would denigrate Bellator if Rampage were allowed to leave for the UFC.  Moreover, Bellator argued that denying the injunction would be a sign to other fighters and their managers that they could just “ignore their contracts” and leave for perceived better opportunities.  Bellator also argued that if Rampage were to leave, Bellator would have lost out on the time and money it had invested in promoting him.
  • The opinion also notes that on December 4, 2014 Scott Coker claims to have notified the UFC that Rampage was still under contract while negotiations by Rampage to the UFC were ongoing. This seems to call into question how much the UFC knew about the Bellator-Rampage contract dispute.  It also calls into question the UFC’s decision to sign him and then put him on a card prior to a legal determination.

Payout Perspective:

In the end, Rampage and his legal team may win this court battle, but the first big decision out of this case falls in Bellator’s favor.  The Court opinion preventing him to fight at UFC 186 is not a good indicator of things to come.  Certainly, the Court made it clear it was not ruling on whether a breach occurred, but the threshold for proving a preliminary injunction is warranted is high (“clear and convincing” as opposed to “more likely than not”).  We will see what Rampage’s legal team decides on whether it will appeal the decision.

Another issue that was raised in passing was the knowledge that the UFC may have known about the contract issues with Bellator.  There could have been potential legal action between Bellator and UFC regarding interference with a contract but it seems as though Bellator did not want to pick that fight just yet.

MMA Payout will keep you posted on this.

UFC distances itself from Jackson injunction

April 8, 2015

The UFC has issued its own statement on the injunction granted against Rampage Jackson on Tuesday which forces him out of his fight at UFC 186 later this month.  In the statement, the UFC indicates that Jackson may consider an “emergency appeal.”

Via UFC.com:

UFC has been advised of the New Jersey state court’s ruling in the matter between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Bellator MMA. The UFC organization was surprised about the ruling because Mr. Jackson represented to UFC on multiple occasions that he was free to negotiate and contract with UFC. The UFC organization is also surprised that Bellator sat on its alleged rights for months before taking action.

In addition, the UFC indicated that it is “also considering action to protect its rights and minimize damages regarding this matter.”

The UFC added that UFC 186 in Montreal, Canada will “proceed as planned.”  There are rumors that the Bell Centre is offering refunds for UFC 186 up until April 10th.  However, others are indicating that the Bell Centre is enforcing the “card subject to change” language in the tickets.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC statement distances itself from Jackson although it does advance the story a bit when it indicates Jackson may consider an “emergency appeal.”  Then again, an appeal is always an option when you lose in court.  Realistically, the UFC should not have been “surprised” about Bellator’s legal maneuvers as this is straight textbook litigation strategy.  What is interesting is how the UFC now takes a “plausible deniability” stance whereas the UFC should have taken into consideration Jackson’s contract status when they decided to re-sign him.  Essentially, it should not have just taken Jackson’s word that he was free to sign with the UFC.  Now, the UFC is in a predicament with its PPV later this month.

NJ court grants Bellator MMA’s injunction; Rampage off of UFC 186

April 7, 2015

A New Jersey court has granted the injunction request of Bellator MMA in its request to prevent Rampage Jackson from fighting at UFC 186 later this month.

Judge Karen L. Suter granted Bellator’s request for relief on Tuesday morning.  Jackson was scheduled to fight Fabio Maldanado on April 25th as the co-main event of the PPV.  Jackson appeared on FS1 during UFC Fight Night 63 to promote the fight.  In fact, the UFC had promoted Jackson’s fight despite the possibility he could be off the show.

Bellator MMA sued Jackson for breach of contract in New Jersey.  This was based on Jackson’s decision to “terminate” his contract citing Bellator’s lack to cure what Jackson perceived as Bellator’s breach of contract.

Interesting enough, Jackson and/or his management indicated that they had sought the advice of UFC’s lawyers in determining that his leaving Bellator for UFC was legal.

The lawsuit is not over as the two sides will continue to litigate this matter.  However, it’s a big blow for Rampage and the UFC.

Bellator issued a statement regarding the ruling.  “We are pleased by the judge’s ruling and look forward to having Rampage fighting for Bellator again soon.”  Rampage Jackson issued his own statement via Instagram.

(h/t:  MMA Fighting)

Payout Perspective:

 Jackson essentially cites the old attorney excuse of being “hometowned” as the reason for losing on Tuesday.  Regardless, the ruling is a blow to the UFC as it decimates its PPV later this month.  One has to wonder why it decided to promote Jackson’s appearance prior to the ruling.  Moreover, the fact that the UFC may have provided its legal opinion on the contract is another blow for the organization.  With that being said, the lawsuit is not over and Jackson’s legal team may still have a chance in proving that Bellator did not hold up to its end of the contract.  Or, in the alternative, Scott Coker may have to work his personal skills in having Rampage rejoin Bellator.

Shlemenko retains lawyer for upcoming CSAC hearing

April 3, 2015

Bloody Elbow reports that Bellator middleweight Alexander Shlemenko has hired attorney Howard Jacobs to represent him to dispute the findings of a positive drug test from his February fight against Melvin Manhoef.

Shlemenko will appear before the California State Athletic Commission on April 28th to apparently dispute the findings.  Shlemenko has denied using any banned substance and wants to clear his name.

Jacobs is a lawyer with experience in drug testing cases.  He has previously represented cyclist Floyd Landis and track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.  He’s also worked with fighters Chael Sonnen, Rafael Cavalcante and Sean Sherk per MMA Junkie.  Whether or not he likes the moniker, the USA Today described him the “Johnnie Cochran” of drug testing back in 2006.

Shlemenko’s representatives have requested that CSAC provide the complete laboratory documentation package as it is believed to have “extremely unusual and questionable findings” according to a statement issued by Shlemenko.

MMA Junkie reported that the former Bellator champion had a “significantly elevated” testosterone ratio.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see what irregularities or questionable findings that will be discovered in the CSAC lab package.  We will see if there were any procedural errors in the collection of the lab tests which might negate the findings.  Or, if there were any other issues with the test results.  Jacobs is an experienced attorney in this realm and should be able to put on a strong defense for Shlemenko.  This is the second time in recent weeks that a fighter has retained counsel in light of challenging a drug test.  You may recall Nick Diaz retained a New York law firm in representing his interests for a failed drug test.

Preliminary Injunction continued until Tuesday in Bellator-Jackson lawsuit

April 2, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that the hearing on the preliminary injunction filed by Bellator against Rampage Jackson has been continued until Tuesday morning, April 7th when Judge Karen Suter will render her decision.

There was no reason given for the delay according to the Junkie article.

The injunction sought to preclude Jackson from fighting at UFC 186 later this month.  Bellator sued Jackson in New Jersey for breach of contract.  Jackson claims that he severed his contract as the terms of the contract were not met.  He argues that even after giving Bellator the requisite time to cure, they were not met.

Bellator has filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent Jackson from returning to the UFC later this month.  Jackson is scheduled to be in the co-main event.

For Bellator to prevail in its preliminary injunction request, it must prove the following elements:

  1. A substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  2. There is a substantial threat of irreparable damage or injury if the injunction is not granted;
  3. The “balance of harms” (threatened injury) weighs in favor of the party seeking the preliminary injunction;
  4. Granting an injunction would serve the public interest.

Payout Perspective:

Not sure that there is much to read into the delay unless it was done to give more time for the parties to come to some sort of settlement which would allow Jackson to fight in the UFC.  If the Judge rules in Bellator’s favor, Jackson will not be allowed to fight in the UFC and UFC 186 loses another fight.  If Jackson wins, the lawsuit may continue and Jackson will be able to fight on April 25th.

Judge rules in New York’s favor, dismisses Zuffa lawsuit

March 31, 2015

On Tuesday, Judge Kimba Wood granted New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment thus ending (for now) the company’s legal battle to strike down New York’s law prohibiting professional mixed martial arts in the state.

Essentially, Judge Wood stated that Zuffa lacked “standing” as a plaintiff as there was no “injury in fact” and it was “merely speculative.” Since the Court determined that there was no “imminent injury” in the evidence presented, it sided with New York. Thus the remaining claim that the New York statute was unconstitutionally vague as well as a similar challenge to the state liquor law were dismissed.

Two key points made by Judge Wood here was that Zuffa had to establish an “injury in fact.” It held that there were no “specific facts” provided by Zuffa to survive the motion for summary judgment. Secondly, the Court stressed that standing must be determined at the commencement of the suit. Essentially, the Court let it be known that anything that occurred after the filing in November 2011, could not be utilized as evidence to prove standing now.

In her opinion issued on Tuesday, she indicated that if Zuffa wants to re-file based on events that may have occurred since the lawsuit was filed in November 2011, it may be better served to do this in state court rather than federal court.

The Court did not rule on a Motion to Strike filed by New York which it sought to preclude some of Zuffa’s evidence since it already had ruled in New York’s favor.

(h/t: Jim Genia)

Payout Perspective:

We had predicted that this may have been a likely outcome. In its moving papers, New York had stressed the standing argument which would allow an “out” for the Court to dismiss the case without a further need for ruling on the merits. Yes, that’s a Zuffa view of the New York strategy (of course, a more Zuffa view would be its press release announcing the decision). It’s also a very good one and one that courts tend to look for if the issues either become convoluted, a toss-up or they just don’t think that the claims were that strong. We’re not saying any of those was the reason for the ruling Tuesday. But, standing is a necessary requirement in bringing claims. Essentially Con Law 101. But, there were legitimate arguments set forth by Zuffa which addressed the reasons why it had a right to bring the lawsuit.

At this point, it’s too early to know whether Zuffa will appeal or focus its efforts on lobbying for an MMA bill in Albany. MMA Payout will have more on this and keep you posted.

Featherweight boxer Gonzalez sued by Golden Boy

March 31, 2015

ESPN reports that Golden Boy Promotions filed a lawsuit against boxer Jhonny Gonzalez on Friday prior to his fight on Saturday.  The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court claims that Gonzalez’s Mexican promoter violated Golden Boy’s exclusive rights to promote his bouts.

Despite the lawsuit, it did not attempt to file an injunction from stopping Gonzalez from fighting Gary Rusell, Jr. Saturday night.  It is requesting $1 million and for equitable relief which asks the court to enforce Golden Boy’s promotional agreement which Gonzalez entered into in 2013.

The lawsuit implicates Al Haymon as conspiring with Gonzalez’s promoter, Osvaldo Kuchle’s Promociones del Pueblo, in delaying a bout with Russell (who Haymon manages) until Golden Boy was not in the picture.

Gonzalez was stopped by Russell, Jr. on Saturday.

Payout Perspective:

Although the story does not indicate a cause of action, one might expect it to be a breach of contract claim.  This is at least the second boxing lawsuit which names Al Haymon as a contributing issue in a promotional dispute.  Last year, you might recall that Sergey Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events, sued Adonis Stevenson’s management group as well as the boxer.  That lawsuit was settled essentially with Bernard Hopkins stepping up to fight Kovalev.  Here, we may have a similar (not the same) situation.  Obviously, the timing of the lawsuit probably precluded an injunction, although it would have been interesting.  But we will see what happens next.

Zuffa sued for patent infringement in Texas

March 19, 2015

Zuffa has been sued in a patent infringement lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by a company that claims that Zuffa is infringing on a patent owned by Orostream LLC.  However, it appears that the lawsuit is one of many filed by the company on the same day.

According to the Complaint, Orostream is a Texas limited liability company with its principal place of business in Plano, Texas. Orostream’s lawyers are based out of Chicago, Illinois. It appears that Zuffa was one of several companies sued by Orostream on the same day: February 23, 2015.  At this point, it appears that Zuffa has requested and the Court has granted an extension of time to Answer the Complaint.

The Complaint alleges that Zuffa infringed on a patent known as the ‘837 Patent titled, “Computer Network System and Method for Efficient Information Transfer.” The patent was filed on April 15, 1996 according to the Complaint.

The Complaint states that Zuffa has directly infringed the patent “by making and/or using a content distribution system over the internet, including the system and application for the UFC.TV app, which performs a method of transferring target information packets while minimizing additional communication delay between a user node and a master node comprising the steps of monitoring length of time necessary for transfer of each target information packet, and adjusting the rate of target information transfer in response to the monitored transfer time.”

No dollar amount is associated with the lawsuit although Orostream requests that Zuffa pay “all damages to and costs incurred…because of Defendant’s infringing activities…”

Zuffa Patent Lawsuit

The full text of the patent can be found here via the USPTO web site.

H/t to Paul Gift for initially finding this lawsuit.

Payout Perspective:

Although not a patent attorney, reading the patent it appears that what Orostream has is a patent for which a web site disseminates information from an end user customer to the source. It appears to be broad and maybe that’s why on the same day it sued Zuffa, Orostream sued many others, in the same Court. Some of the other entities it has sued are WWE, NFL Enterprises, LLC, NHL Interactive Cyberenterprises and MLB Advanced Media. Notably, Texas courts are “patent-friendly” and the Eastern District is known for going to trial quickly on these cases. Here, Orostream has filed a jury demand along with its Complaint.

Only an opinion, but it appears that the strategy by Orostream is to seek a settlement from Zuffa to pay a settlement and not litigate the case. In patent law parlance, this is known as a “patent troll.” MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Can the UFC implement its drug testing plan?

March 13, 2015

Its the second episode of Show Money with Bloody Elbow’s John Nash and Paul Gift.  In this episode we talk the hurdles to the UFC’s implementation of its proposed drug policy, Premier Boxing and the latest from the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit.

I apologize ahead of time for any audio problems on my end as I had issues with my internet.

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